Percentage of population that has access to innovative public transit service or is within one quarter mile of regular fixed route transit

Status

This measure captures the percentage of Austinites that currently live close to Capital Metro fixed route service or have access to innovative forms of public transit service. As of 2021, just under 56% of people are within a quarter-mile of regular fixed route transit or a public innovative mobility service. This is up from the previous year. 

 Traditional public transit service operates on established fixed routes, and it is a reliable way to get where you need to go without driving or riding in a personal vehicle. However, Austin’s traditional north-south development pattern, largely centered on the automobile, has contributed to difficulty in offering time-competitive, cheap, and efficient fixed route transit in all parts of the city. Fixed route transit service performs best with transit-supportive densities, a connected street grid, and a relatively flat topography. In areas of Austin that lack these characteristics, other solutions are necessary. 

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The City of Austin began tracking this measure in 2020. In 2020, an estimated 48% of Austinites had access to innovative forms of a public mobility service or were within a quarter-mile of regular fixed route transit  
Note: To see the underlying data for this chart, please select the "View Source Data" link.
Although we do not know for certain what led to the rise in percentage of people living near these services this past year, increasing the number of people living within ½ mile of the Transit Priority Network is a goal of the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan (ASMP). There has been an expansion of public services over the past year. Most notably, Capital Metro’s Pickup service has expanded to 11 different zones. This service allows for flexible transit service to work, shopping and medical appointments, and it has added significantly more people into areas with innovative transit service. Increased housing within the quarter-mile distance to fixed route transit could also contribute to this increase. 

While the construction and operation of new public transit routes and services should increase the percentage of people near public transit, it is also possible that certain City or private actions increase the number of people living far from transit. For example, the City could annex land that is not served by transit, or home construction could increase towards the outer edges of the city where there isn’t current service. This would lower the percentage of people having access to these services and mobility options. 

The type of housing built in these locations―whether close to or far from these transportation options―will also affect this measure. Single-family homes built near transit will accommodate fewer people than multi-family homes. Conversely, large developments or subdivisions built far from transit will have a greater effect than a single or small number of homes built far from transit. 

Additional Measure Insights 

This measure will be affected by the development of public infrastructure, the provision of innovative public mobility services and by the amount and type of private home development. Capital Metro considers service changes three times per year: January, June, and August. At any of these points, it is possible that routes could be altered so that more or less of the population falls within a quarter-mile buffer of the transit route. Additionally, with the passage of Project Connect, a major expansion of several public transit lines should substantially increase the number of people within a quarter mile of a public transit route.  

Innovative public transit services, like Capital Metro’s on-demand Pickup service, provides more flexible services in areas that are not served by traditional fixed route transit. For the same cost of a ride on traditional Capital Metro buses, users can access service within designated Pickup zones to get to their destination or connect to existing fixed route transit stops to continue their trip across town.  

Another innovative service in Austin is MetroBike. Services like MetroBike are often seen as a “first/last mile” option, which allows someone to ride MetroBike a short distance to access public transportation, which can be taken much further distances. MetroBike is developing an expansion to the system’s overall footprint, as well as testing the use of smaller docks that can be installed in more places. Perhaps most consequentially. MetroBike is continuing to convert their standard bikes to be fully electric, which will help expand the locations in Austin that are accessible by bike. Austin’s hills, hot weather, and less dense neighborhoods will become more accessible on a MetroBike that is electric as opposed to being solely powered by the rider. 

Creating and improving regular fixed route transit and innovative transit and mobility is essential for Austin to reach the 50/50 mode share goal identified in the ASMP. Providing diverse and reliable mobility options will allow people the opportunity to move away from single-occupant vehicles. Improving and increasing access to public transportation and innovative mobility services can help supply travel choice, lower travel costs, and lower vehicle emissions due to transportation. 

Measure Details and Definition

1) Definition: “Regular fixed route transit service” is any public transportation bus or train route that travels the same path each time it comes. For instance, Capital Metro’s Route 7 runs from the St. Johns neighborhood south to the Dove Springs neighborhood and takes the same roads every time. This type of transit service is also based on a published schedule, so that people know when to expect a bus or train to be at the station or stop. 
“Innovative public transit service” is different from fixed route service and may take many forms. One example is a bikeshare service like MetroBike, which allows people to rent bicycles in one place and drop them off somewhere else. Another example is Pickup service, which is a rideshare service that allows someone to request a ride from anywhere in a certain area and be dropped off anywhere else in that area. 

2) Calculation Method: This measure looks at the entire Capital Metro service area, which is slightly larger than the City of Austin. A population estimate from the 2020 American Community Survey was used to match the population of all census tract block groups within the Capital Metro service area. Buffers of ¼ mile were placed around all Capital Metro routes and Metrobike Stations. This buffer was designed to provide a reasonable distance someone might walk to use these services. These buffers were then combined with the Capital Metro Pickup zones to create a single “accessible public transportation shed.” The estimated population living within this “accessible public transportation shed” was divided by the entire population living within the Capital Metro service area.  
 
3) Data Collection Process: Population data comes from the U.S. Census table B01003 from the American Community Survey. This data uses a five-year estimated rolling average for the years 2016-2020. The Capital Metro service area is defined by Capital Metro. Local municipal governments choose to pay into Capital Metro to join the service area, so it is possible for the service area to grow or diminish.  Changes to Capital Metro service can occur at three different times each year: January, August, or December. The routes, location of Metrobike stations, and Pickup zones used for this analysis were from April 2021

4) Measure Target Calculation: The expanding size, changing development, population growth, shape, and topography of Austin make it near-impossible to provide quality public transportation services to all of Austin and surrounding communities. However, with the expansion of the public transportation network, Metrobike and Pickup services, and expected residential development near public transit service, we hope that 2 out of every 3 people in Austin is within a quarter-mile of regular fixed route public transportation, MetroBike service, or within a Pickup zone. This would mean 34% of Austin is further than a quarter-mile from regular fixed route public transportation or MetroBike and is outside of a Pickup zone. 

5) Frequency Measure is Reported: Annually (Calendar Year)

Date page was last updated: June 2022